Category: "Health"

Family planning will cut poverty, say Ethiopia and Rwanda PMs

July 11th, 2012

Family planning will cut poverty, say Ethiopia and Rwanda PMs

By Emma Batha

LONDON (AlertNet) - African leaders should increase funding for contraceptive services if they want to reduce poverty and hunger, the prime ministers of Ethiopia and Rwanda said ahead of an international summit on family planning.

Writing in the Lancet medical journal, Rwanda’s Pierre Damien Habumuremyi and Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi said improving access to contraception also was vital for bringing down “unacceptably high” maternal mortality rates on the continent.

Major donors have praised Ethiopia and Rwanda for increasing access to family planning through strong political commitment and wise investments in their health systems.

On Wednesday the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will host the London Summit on Family Planning which will launch an initiative to give 120 million more women worldwide access to voluntary family planning methods by 2020.

Habumuremyi and Meles suggested family planning would not only save lives but would slow the rapid growth of Africa’s swiftly burgeoning populations. Ethiopia and Rwanda are both predicted to double their populations by 2050.

The two leaders said reducing population growth would in turn help their governments make necessary investments “to reduce poverty and hunger, preserve natural resources, and adapt to the consequences of climate change and environmental degradation”.

Estimates show that more than 40 million women in sub-Saharan Africa alone would like to stop or postpone childbearing, but are not using family planning.

“This is a serious cause for concern and a lost opportunity to bolster our development efforts,” the prime ministers wrote.


Women who start childbearing at an early age and have numerous closely spaced pregnancies are at higher risk of dying in pregnancy.

Giving women the ability to delay, space and limit births is vital for bringing down maternal and infant mortality rates, experts say.

A new study in the Lancet shows that extending access to contraception to women who cannot currently obtain it could reduce maternal deaths by 30 percent.

Better spacing of births could likewise cut infant mortality by 10 percent and early childhood mortality by around 20 percent.

Habumuremyi and Meles said improving access to family planning would also enable women to become more economically active and allow parents to invest more in their children’s education. This in turn would contribute to overall national development.

“We believe that improving education and improving access to family planning are not alternatives: they are rather complementary policies that African governments and the international community must pursue,” the leaders wrote.

The two prime ministers said they were committed to prioritising family planning and were proud of the progress that is being made to increase contraceptive use in their countries.

In Rwanda, the percentage of married women using contraception rose from 13 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2010. In Ethiopia contraceptive use increased from 8 percent to 29 percent in the same period, they said.

But, they added, 25-35 percent of married women in both countries still did not have proper access to family planning.

The two prime ministers called on other African leaders to increase funding for family planning from national budgets.

They pointed out that improving access to contraception could save governments money spent on health care as fewer mothers would need medical help for pregnancy complications and unsafe abortions and there would be fewer deliveries.

Measures taken by both Ethiopia and Rwanda include:

Introducing programmes to enable people who need contraceptives to access them, irrespective of their ability to pay
Strengthening the ability of their health systems to deliver family planning by, among other things, improving the training of health workers
Extending family planning provision to communities through the direct involvement of community members. This is important for winning the support of men and other family members
Forging strong partnerships with religious and traditional leaders, whose support is valuable for successful family planning programmes
Ensuring family planning is allocated sufficient funding to maintain a steady supply of contraceptives to all parts of their countries

Doctors in Ethiopia successfully performed surgery on a girl born with eight limbs

July 5th, 2012

Doctors in Ethiopia successfully performed surgery on a girl born with eight limbs

Ethiopian doctors have successfully performed surgery on a girl born with eight limbs in the country's capital Addis Ababa.

Werkitu Dababa, born with a "parasitic twin" (an incomplete twin), had four arms and four legs. Two of the legs and two of the arms were undeveloped and protruded from her pelvis.

The 17-year-old underwent an eight-hour surgery at the Cure Ethiopia Children's Hospital to remove the useless limbs along with extraneous internal organs.

The teenager told a press conference how happy she was that the surgery had gone well.

She revealed that she was forced to drop out of school because of constant mockery by schoolmates.

"I thought that everybody was just like me when I was a kid. But I began to realise that I was different from others when people made fun of my appearance in my third and fourth grade.

Read more: IBTimes

In Ethiopia, the expansion of rural health services is key to reducing child mortality

June 13th, 2012

In Ethiopia, the expansion of rural health services is key to reducing child mortality

By Sacha Westerbeek

Worldwide, under-5 mortality has declined from more than 12 million deaths in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010 – yet thousands of children still die every day from preventable diseases. On 14-15 June 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States, together with UNICEF, are convening the Child Survival Call to Action, a meeting to mobilize the world toward one ambitious but simple goal – ending preventable child deaths. This story is part of a series highlighting global efforts to improve child survival.

In Ethiopia, the expansion of rural health services is key to reducing child mortality

ROMEY KEBELE, Ethiopia, 13 June 2012 – Eight-week-old Moges Teshome is asleep, wrapped up in a blanket on his parent’s bed, next to the fire where dinner is being prepared. But his sleep is disturbed by coughing and heavy breathing. He has pneumonia.

Moges is the first child of 20-year-old Kobeb Ngussie. “Some days ago my son had a very bad cough and he was breathing very fast. I was afraid,” she said. “My husband told me that I’d better take him to the health post a few minutes from where we live.”

There, Haimanot Hailu, who has been a health extension worker for five years, diagnosed Moges and gave Ms. Ngussie antibiotics to administer to him. Ms. Hailu taught Ms. Ngussie how to wash her hands with soap before giving the medicine to Moges.

Three days into his treatment, Moges was improving.

“He is taking the medicine well, and today I see him getting better,” says Ms. Ngussie said.

Read Full Article from Unicef

Ethiopia: Calcium may ease extra fluoride’s dental harm

April 29th, 2012

Calcium may ease extra fluoride’s dental harm

The researchers also conducted clinical examinations of 200 Main Rift Valley villagers' teeth to see if differences in fluoride levels in drinking water supplies affected the severity and prevalence of fluorosis in a community's population.

DUKE (US) — Increased dietary calcium may be key to addressing widespread dental health problems faced by millions of people living in a remote region of Ethiopia.

As many as 8 million people living in Ethiopia’s Main Rift Valley are estimated to be at risk of dental and skeletal fluorosis as a result of their long-term exposure to high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the region’s groundwater.

Fluoride is essential for healthy tooth enamel development, but consuming too much of it can damage enamel and bones, particularly in children between the ages of 3 months and 8 years.

Mild to moderate fluorosis typically results in permanent discoloring and disfiguration of tooth enamel. Severe fluorosis can cause chronic pain and lead to tooth and bone loss.

Most efforts to combat fluorosis in the region have focused primarily on treating drinking water to reduce its fluoride content.

The new Duke University-led study, published online in the journal Environment International, finds that these efforts “may not be sufficient on their own, because of the region’s geology and the low threshold of exposure at which we found fluorosis was likely to occur,” says Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Read more ...

ETHIOPIA: Still too many deaths in childbirth

April 25th, 2012
Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN Only 10 percent of women in Ethiopia give birth within health facilities

ETHIOPIA: Still too many deaths in childbirth

ADDIS ABABA, 25 April 2012 (IRIN)
- A lack of awareness of the importance of skilled hospital deliveries in Ethiopia, cultural beliefs, and transport challenges in rural areas are causing a high number of deaths during childbirth, say officials.

Only 10 percent of deliveries take place within health facilities, according to the Ethiopia’s latest (April) Demographic Health Survey results. Nevertheless, the figure is a significant improvement on 6 percent in the previous 2005 survey.

Commenting on the results, Health Minister Kesetebirhan Admasu said: “About 60 percent of mothers who did not attend health facilities while giving birth do not see the benefit of delivering in health facilities, while the remaining 30 percent abstain from going there by giving culture and beliefs as their reason.

“That [the] majority of women did not appreciate the value of institutional delivery, calls for a concerted effort to educate women and families about the importance of skilled birth attendance and postnatal care.”

Many women prefer delivering at home in the company of known and trusted relatives and friends, where customs and traditions can be observed, according to a 2011 study published in the Ethiopian Journal of Health.

“Even though communities are aware of the dangers around childbirth, contingencies for potential complications are rarely discussed or made, such that most families hope or pray that things will turn out well. When things go wrong precious time is lost in finding resources and manpower to assist in the transfer to a health facility,” the study said.

About 80 percent of all maternal deaths in Ethiopia, are due to haemorrhage, infection, unsafe abortion, hypertensive disorders, and obstructed labour, along with HIV/AIDS and malaria, said a senior Health Ministry maternal health expert, Frewoine Gebrehiwot.

The maternal mortality ratio in Ethiopia is 676 for every 100,000 births. This compares to an average of 290 per 100,000 births in developing countries, and 14 per 100,000 in developed countries, according to the UN World Health Organization.

Besides death, at least 500,000 Ethiopian women and girls who miss out on skilled health care during delivery, end up suffering other complications including obstetric fistula.

Behaviour change needed

The Health Ministry is working on behaviour change through health extension programmes and is providing each of Ethiopia's550 districts with an ambulance to facilitate transport for pregnant mothers who want to deliver in health facilities free of charge.

But some of the hospitals are lacking in equipment, skills or policy guidance to enable them to provide basic emergency obstetric and newborn care, according to a study by the Health Ministry and its partners, who, using 2008 data, found that only 51 percent of hospitals qualified as offering comprehensive care.

“Most of the health facilities which are far from Addis Ababa are either not fully staffed with skilled service providers or fully equipped with the necessary supplies and equipment that can provide quality services related to complications during pregnancy and childbirth,” said the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

“Limited human resources, especially midwives, hamper efforts to provide adequate services, especially in rural areas. Gaps in training and remuneration have led to attrition and turnover among public sector health care professionals.”

According to UNFPA, public facilities routinely suffer stockouts and obstetric care equipment shortages due to budget deficits and poor management.

Free services provided at health centres are to blame for the shortages, according to the Health Ministry which hopes a new health insurance scheme, to be piloted in 13 rural districts, will help to provide more funding.

At present, the ministry is seeking to increase the number of women delivering in hospitals by tapping into those seeking antenatal care and providing sustained family planning services at the district level.

“We are particularly trying to decrease mothers’ deaths by retaining the significant numbers of pregnant women who come to receive antenatal care from hospitals but [go] missing [during] delivery,” said Frewoine.

At least 34 percent of pregnant women aged 15-49 receive antenatal care from a skilled health provider such as a doctor, nurse or midwife, but only 10 percent give birth there.

“The same can be said about the high unmet need for family planning in couples and also among young people,” she said, adding that plans are under way to assign two midwives to every health centre in every district in the next three years.

So far, close to 1,630 nurses have been trained as midwives in a one-year accelerated training programme. Their number is expected to reach 4,674 by 2015.